There is no question about it – the Church has been called to “Go and make disciples” and that is to happen “among all nations” (Matthew 28:19). The way that each individual body of believers carries out that command can vary widely however. There are three common directions:
- Ignore it – Some churches simply lay aside making disciples of all nations as they pursue other ministry efforts. There are many demands on the modern-day church, and some of them would monopolize the church’s time on members rather than equipping them to seek the lost of the world with the Gospel. The Church must love, minister, and equip its members as well as seek the lost and dying world with the Gospel. Ignoring missions is not an acceptable direction.
- Pay it – Some churches see the need of making disciples of all nations and look to missional giving in order to meet that need. Giving sacrificially toward missions is a great gift to God. Missional giving keeps many missionaries on the field doing the full-time work of God rather than constant fund-raising. A common truth about missions is that, “missions is caught more than taught.” That means for a church to really grasp missions, they catch it better by seeing and doing than by making assumptions. I could appreciate a steak dinner by watching it on Food Network, but I’ll have a much larger appreciation for the steak that I taste hot off the grill! Giving is good, but it’s only a part of the best recipe…
- Send it – In addition to missional giving, a church that wants to “catch missions” needs to have people on the field. This can be done in a variety of ways, but what we’ve done at West Cleveland Baptist Church this year is to find the nearest SEND city. These are metropolitan areas that have a decreased Church presence as population has boomed and the Church has struggled. There are many church plants attempting to start in these cities, but the challenge to become relevant in a city that has marched on without faith is huge. Look at these three truths:
- Every person in these cities needs Jesus (Romans 3:23)
- Every church plant needs help and support
- Every established church can gain valuable experience on the mission field by coming alongside a church plant.
This year, we left out at 6 AM from our church in Cleveland, TN. There were three families that totaled 12 people, and 5 of those people were 10 years old or under. Some think it would be counter-productive to have children on a mission trip, but I tend to think that if I’m going to raise my children in church, and I think a church should be on mission, then I want my children to have missions in their DNA.
It’s only a 2-hour drive from our church to Tapestry Church in Atlanta, GA. They have an office building that we were set to sleep in, but they do not have a traditional church building. Their goal is to identify believers in communities that would be willing to open their homes to weekly Bible study. Rather than one large building where everyone meets for one large church service per week, Tapestry Church has a vision where there are several small meeting places that are happening all over the city at various times and places. They will know they are achieving their goal when the love of Jesus is permeating Atlanta from Christians in all sorts of communities. It’s likely very different from what you are used to – but it’s a beautiful vision if you consider it. Each and every community that ends up with a group of faithful believers living out the Gospel can have a huge impact on the kingdom of God. It reminds me of a line from a song I heard years ago in the animated movie Prince of Egypt:
“A single thread of a tapestry,
though its color brightly shines,
can never understand its purpose,
in the pattern of the Grand Design”
- Day 1: On our first day after driving down, we got unpacked and went through orientation. We quickly went to a community center in a neighborhood known as Little 5 Points. We cleaned the building (trash pickup in the parking lot, sweeping, mopping) and set up to feed a meal to anyone experiencing homelessness. Our hosts have been at this long enough to where they have befriended many people that have made the streets of Little 5 Points their home for years. We cleaned up and set up the meal, then it was off to the streets where we were simply walking and talking with people – inviting anyone that wanted a free meal to stop by the community center. I know this as “ministry of presence” where your intent is to go be with people wherever they are. Our kids were impacted by walking the streets and considering what it would be like to have no home. I think our adults were equally impacted by that thought. We only ended up serving a small handful at the community center, but it was a good day nonetheless.
- Day 2: Our second day started with loading up tools for a work project at a local elementary school. We went to Benteen Elementary School to dig holes and cement in 4 benches that had been built by a previous mission group. We also had some flowers to plant and mulch to spread while there. There were many staff, administration, and students that walked by watching us work with excitement. They weren’t accustomed to seeing people do something nice for them while expecting nothing in return. It took us up to lunch time to finish the work at Benteen, and our kids enjoyed playing on the playground during the break times (and some of the work times). When we got back to the church offices, we helped to make 200 lunches for a local dance team that had lost their other catering service. We set up an assembly line where we rolled up 200 turkey/cheese roll-ups on tortillas and packed paper sacks with snacks so that this dance team could be fed the next day. These are not hard things – but they went a long way toward helping Tapestry Church show the love of Christ to their community. Who ever said that showing the love of Christ had to be difficult?
- Day 3: On our last day, we gave everything a good cleaning in the office building where we lived. We cleaned the shower trailer, the trailer we’d used for our work, and the rooms where we slept. Then we set up another assembly line and began preparing sacks of weekend food. Tapestry Church has gotten tied into the school system where they have identified students that might be going hungry on the weekends. For these students, Tapestry Church collects food and sends them home with a simple sack of food that can give them something to eat for each meal over a weekend. Each sack included a pack of oatmeal, a pack of instant grits, a pack of Ramen noodles, a can of Spaghetti-O’s, a can of green beans, a granola bar, a pack of fruit snacks, and a pack of raisins. We packed like maniacs until we were out of food. There were cardboard boxes and plastic wrapping flying as we sped through the task at hand. Who wouldn’t want to volunteer their time and work hard to feed hungry kids??? I thought this was a very practical way to share the love of Christ with the community, and I was glad to be a part of it.
All in all, we had a great trip. It did my heart good to get back on the mission field even if just for 3 days. I am proud to have served alongside Matt, George, and Kimmi Stacy of Tapestry Church. I am also extremely proud of Curtis and Wilma Hicks, Maria Rayfield, David and Joy Mason, and my beautiful wife Tara Ward from West Cleveland Baptist Church. And a special shout out to Lukas, Liam, Landry, Noah, and Silas for being on the mission field so early! I pray that your experiences will shape how you see the world and it’s need for the Gospel for many years to come!
I hope that you will take a look around and decide today not to let missions pass you by. Go out today and “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” and “love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:37,39).